Bringing Digital Preservation to Queensland State Archives

Have you ever had that moment where you urgently needed an old electronic file and finally dug it out only to have a frustrating error telling you that the file format is no longer supported? When we talk about the long-term sustainability of the underlying technology that allows us to save and access digital media, we are talking about digital preservation. (Meg Travers has spoken about this previously in our blog.) Now imagine that the file you had saved was important to the cultural heritage of your state. Over time technology changes and if digitally stored information doesn’t consider what this might mean for file integrity and long-term access, information will be lost. This makes digital preservation of great importance to archives and collections institutions around the world.

Gaia Resources is a proponent of open-source solutions for cultural institutions, particularly for long-term sustainable information management. Without restrictive licensing conditions, you know that the underlying code of a system can be visible to you and within your control in the future. If a specific vendor is no longer available, the code itself can still be taken up by others without risking a loss of access to your digital assets.

In 2020, Gaia Resources along with our consortium partners Hudson Molonglo and Recordkeeping Innovation, built and implemented a new Archival Management System (AMS) using a customised version of the open-source software platform ArchivesSpace, as well as a portal for Agencies (ArchivesGateway) and a new public interface for searching the archives (ArchivesSearch). This project was delivered to the Queensland State Archives (QSA) with the support and assistance of the Digital Archiving Program (DAP).

Following the successful delivery of this trio of systems, the next important task in the digital transformation of Queensland’s archives was digital preservation. To ensure the successful delivery of a comprehensive digital preservation solution, our next step at Gaia Resources was the validation of key questions and assumptions via delivery of a Proof of Concept (PoC) to QSA.

One of the original implementation team project managers, Megan Edward, began working on the PoC for a new process to integrate the transfer of digital records from agencies with a digital preservation system. The groundwork of the PoC demonstrated that our combined Waterfall/Agile methodology could both deliver to the requirements set while allowing for a feedback loop during implementation stages which gives QSA the flexibility to make smaller decisions once the initial system is up and running in a test environment.

With our original consortium partners, Hudson Molonglo and Recordkeeping Innovation, in the POC, we were able to design, develop and implement an end-to-end digital transfer process. The workflow was built upon functionality delivered in the AMS and was subsequently integrated with Archivematica for long-term digital preservation. This allowed us to validate assumptions made before implementation, and identify areas requiring further investigation for a complete solution.

At Gaia Resources, we prefer to work closely and collaboratively with our clients; as well as call on the expertise of subject matter experts when required to ensure we can provide the best service and solution. In the current DPS project, we have also partnered with Artefactual. Artefactual is not only responsible for maintaining Archivematica but they also manage Access to Memory (AtoM), another open-source archival solution that Gaia Resources has delivered for clients. With this team of specialists, the project will implement digital preservation capabilities for QSA, enabling them to preserve and provide access to born-digital and digitised records of cultural and historical significance for Queensland. We are privileged to be part of this important work preserving Queensland’s heritage, delivered for QSA via DAP as part of the technology transformation program underway at QSA. It is wonderful to continue our partnership with Record Keeping Innovation and Hudson Molonglo and to welcome Artefactual to the team. 

The Queensland State Archive holds over 67 linear kilometres of records

More recently, I wrote about how lucky the Brisbane-based QSA team were in getting a tour around some of the amazing facilities there as we came closer to the next phase of our digital preservation work with QSA and DAP. Our continuing relationship with QSA themselves; our partners from the original consortium; and now Artefactual, brings together specialist knowledge in record-keeping best practice as well as the two open-source solutions underlying the future and current systems.

As our relationship with QSA continues, Gaia Resources is excited to see the outcomes of this stage of work and bring it into use for the benefit of future generations. 

If you are interested in discussing how Gaia Resources might assist your organisation in managing archives or collections solutions, please get in touch via email or our socials: Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.


Comments are closed.